Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Mantra chanting is a really easy and pleasant way to introduce a meditative practice to life. It can be done a few minutes every morning. You can do it with just your own voice. Or if you like beautiful things, you can incorporate candles, mala beads, images and music. It is up to you.
I chanted every morning for 10 minutes for 30 days and it was such a beautiful experience! Sometimes getting started on meditation is challenging, because the mind wants to tackle that to-do list. I purchased a mala made of sandlewood. By making a habit of sitting down every morning and chanting with my pleasantly scented, smooth wooden mala beads, I found that I woke up every morning excited to practice. Sometimes I continue to meditate after the chanting. On busier days, I kept it to just the chant. Either way I felt very grounded, yet light, and ready to work from the heart.
A mantra is a sacred word, sound or phrase, which is believed to have a spiritual and psychological power. Usually mantras are in Sanskrit, Hebrew, Latin or other special language. Sanskrit is said to be comprised of harmonic tones that are especially conducive to connecting with the energy of the universe. Sanskrit moves the tongue and sounds through the mouth in ways that activate the energy channels in the body.
Mantra means “tool of mind” in Sanskrit. Repetition and chanting of mantras encourages the mind to enter a meditative state. Chanting mantras changes your vibration and evokes a higher level of consciousness.
How to Chant
There are no rules. You can sit in a chair and chant silently in your head, or outloud. You can use music, or not. You can gaze at a picture while you chant, or close your eyes. I personally really enjoy having a little “altar” with a candle, a picture and the mala.
Example of a Mala
A Selection of Short Mantras
I curated this list of fairly short mantras. Some of them are more "religious" than others. For my 30 Day practice I chose the White Tara Mantra.
OM (Actually AUM)
primal creative sound vibration --the constantly creative sound left over from the Big Bang.
A sound of completion, birth, growth, maturity/ignorance, growth, wisdom
Lokāḥ Samastāḥ Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free of suffering, and may all of my thoughts, words and actions contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.
Om Shanti Om
Om Peace Om
Sutra 3:24 The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
“By meditating on friendliness and other such qualities such as kindness and compassion, we develop the magical ability to transmit those qualities to others.”
Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Jewel Lotus Hum
The Jewel in the lotus means the spirit in the heart, or the factors to enlightenment and the wisdom
Associated with Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva of compassion
Om bhur bhuvah Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
Earth, Atmosphere, Heavens
We meditate on the sacred light
Of the radiant Divine
May this inspire our devotion
Associated with Vedic Sun God
Asato maa sat gamaya
Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya
Mrtyor maa amritam gamaya
Lead me from illusion to the ultimate truth
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from impermanence to eternity
Read more here: https://www.amritapuri.org/3731/asatoma.aum
Buddham saranam gacchami Dhammam saranam gacchami Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
I go to the yogic way of life/wisdom for refuge
I go to the Community for refuge.
(Refuge from the ups and downs of life/mental suffering we put ourselves through)
Om Namah Shivaya
I honor the divine within. Technically, this is invoking Shiva, the God of yoga. He is also known as the Destroyer, among other things. He might not be the most gentle Deity to invoke.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Om and salutations to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, for which Gum is the seed
Green Tara Mantra
This is the “root” mantra for Tara, but it is also called the Green Tara Mantra.
Hindu: oṃ tāre tuttāre ture svāhā
Tibettan Buddhist: oṃ tāre tu tāre ture soha. (This one seems to be easier to find.)
The literal translation would be “Oṃ O Tārā, I pray O Tārā, O Swift One, So Be It!”
White Tara Mantra
Hindu: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Mama Ayuh Punya Jnana Pushtim Kuru Svaha
Tibettan: Om Tare Tuttare Ture Mama Ah Yuh Pune Jana Putim Kuru Soha
The extra words do have multiple meanings, but are generally translated as:
Mama — “mine” or “I would like to possess these qualities” l Ayuh —”long life” — for which White Tara is famous l Punya — “merit” — to live ethically l Jnana — “wisdom” l
Pushtim — “increase”
I compiled a bunch of chants on Spotify. You can access the playlist here. There are also some nice options on YouTube. Here's a couple of nice versions of Lokāḥ Samastāḥ Sukhino Bhavantu by Anand Mehrotra/Sattvayoga and another on the Meditative Mind channel.
Vedic Chanting vs Kirtan vs Other
Vedic is a special cadence from the Vedic period of yoga, which is thought to have magic tones, better for connecting with the universe. It is also easy to sing for people of varying abilities, and helps memorize lessons such as sutras. Kirtan is very devotional singing with call and response. Other could be modern melodies and musical arrangements.
Photo credits: JP Korpa and Michael Walk on Unsplash